- Scientific name: Urtica dioica
- Family: Urticaceae
Perennial herb up to 1.5m tall. Rhizomes (underground stems) yellow. Leaves up to 15cm long, ovate with drip tip (acuminate) and heart-shaped (cordate) or blunt-ended (truncate) base; margin deeply serrated; copious stinging hairs. Each plant has either male or female flowers (dioecious). Flowers clustered in nodding, lax racemes or panicles.
- Nettles need phosphates in the soil in order to thrive. This is why they grow so well near where humans live, with our phosphate-rich rubbish dumps and livestock paddocks.
- Nettles have evolved stings to prevent them being eaten by animals.
- Despite their stings, nettles have for a long time provided a source of food for humans in the form of soups, broths and teas.
- Nettles are also used as a fibre to make string and cloth.
Where it grows
The stinging nettle thrives in nitrogen-rich soils across North Africa, temperate Asia, the Himalayas, Europe and North America.
- Acuminate: with drip tip.
- Ovate: two-dimensionally egg-shaped with widest part at base.
- Panicle: branched flower stalk.
- Perennial: lives for at least two years.
- Raceme: a flowering structure where the individual flowers are clearly stalked, the newest and last to open being at the apex.